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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Mighty Pen -- and an addendum

I wrote the following as my letter from the editor in the latest issue of The Writers Network News, but even if you read it in my newsletter, please read it again and note the addendum at the end.
Facebook fascinates me. I admit it. I probably spend more than an hour a day checking, reading, and rereading posts from friends, relatives, and fellow writers. Sometimes the posts have cute videos, which always lure me into taking time to watch people, cats, dogs, bears, raccoons, squirrels, and even foxes doing funny or astonishing things. My next-door neighbor and I joke that the only way we know what the other is doing is by checking Facebook, which thankfully is not completely true.

Most Facebook postings are happy, upbeat, playful, and entertaining, but sometimes I see a mean-spirited posting, and those make me shake my head. What type of person feels the need to post ugly things on a public forum? How does it reflect on the person who posts those things? The pen may indeed be mightier than the sword, but in my opinion, nasty posts on Facebook or Twitter only make the one who posted the note look bad.

Facebook has helped me connect with friends from the past, and most of the time those reconnections are delightful. One ex-boyfriend, though, after reading some of my Facebook posts, commented that I made my life seem idyllic. At first I felt a little hurt, until I realized he is right, because my life may actually be idyllic. I have pursued a career I love, and it has been financially rewarding to me and helpful to hundreds of writers. I wrote a book that I sold to a publisher that gave me an advance and paid me royalties, while the book was in print. I've successfully self-published a few other books that are still selling. I live in a comfortable house I bought on my own and have paid for in full. I have a dog that loves to cuddle with me, so we nurture each other. I have a loving family, and two of my siblings live close enough now that we get together once or twice a week and always have a blast together. I have checked off most of the items on my bucket list. I have traveled the world on planes, trains, automobiles, cruise ships, barges, feet, and more. I am blessed with supportive and loving friends. I have a great reputation among writers. I am the mother of an accomplished, handsome man who practices veterinary medicine and who married his best friend, a woman I love as much as he does. So yes, if my Facebook comments seem all too upbeat, blame it on me. I am an upbeat person.

Of course I have suffered setbacks and sad times. I've lost many people I loved, including a child. I spent time in poverty in the past. I endured two divorces. I don't write about those things, though. They did not stop me from moving on with life and building the life I wanted to live.

I feel sorry for those who are not upbeat, who resent other people's successes or good attitudes. I feel sad that some people try to make themselves feel better by spending time and energy trying to hurt others with their poison pens. I think those folks are only poisoning themselves, though. I'm too busy being happy to let negative people pull me down.

You can become my friend on Facebook through either my personal page or my Zebra Communications page. Hey, join me on both, and you'll get to follow my personal posts, which are usually upbeat, as well as my professional posts, which are entertaining and educational. You might see me groan about having a cold or stubbing my toe, but for the most part, I hope my posts are uplifting.
A colleague of mine read the above letter and wrote to me to say he lives with a mild form of bipolar disorder. He explained, "[Viewing Facebook posts] when depressed makes me even more depressed. As mostly joyously positive posts (and self-promotion) predominate, it makes me feel that everyone else in the world is having the greatest time with their lives, with only ecstatic things happening all the time, and here I sit in the middle of an episodic depression which feels like the end of the world. When I feel like that, it's impossible to feel joy for others, and the main feeling is one of jealousy. I know that the mood is likely to pass, but I wanted to let you know that such a perspective might be more common than you would think."
I appreciate the fresh perspective my colleague gave me. Although I am sorry that anyone suffers with difficult mood swings, the information gives me hope. Now I hope that all negative posts, especially those directed at me, are the result of an organic issue in the brains of others, rather than an indication that there are truly mean people in the world. I won't stop posting happy things and thoughts, but if I meet with negative reactions, I will try to understand the issues behind the words. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Vague Nod to Astrology, and How it Affects Writers

Over the years I have had a few friends who studied, swore by, and lived by astrology. Mostly I found their comments to be a waste of my time, and certainly the generic horoscopes in periodicals always made me chuckle at their ability to apply to anyone in any situation.

I am not a superstitious person, and I often go against convention. I believe Friday the thirteenth is my lucky day. I don't think a black cat or broken mirror will do me any harm, unless the cat scratches me or the mirror cuts me.  

The one thing I do pay attention to, though, is the planet Mercury, especially when I find myself in the middle of a muddled conversation or am involved in a frustrating attempt to resolve an issue with a service or a purchase of some kind.  

Astrologers say that when Mercury is retrograde, writers should use the time to be creative, but should not submit a book for consideration. The planet is considered retrograde when it appears to be moving backward in the sky, because of its position while orbiting the sun.  

According to astrology, the planet Mercury rules travel, literature, poetry, and merchants, so during periods of Mercury retrograde, it is better for writers to stay at home and write. It's supposed to be a good creative time, but not a good time to try to sell your literature or sign literary contracts. The claim is that when Mercury is retrograde, which happens a few times each year, communications get screwy, manuscripts could get lost in the mail, sales contracts can fall through, and (pardon the pun) heaven only knows what other things may happen.  

I was not a believer, until I unknowingly bought (sales/merchants) a new sound system (literature/communications) for my car (travel/transportation) during Mercury retrograde many years ago. Holy cow! The thing barely worked from the start, and then blew a speaker within weeks. A friend who was an avid astrologer wagged her finger at me and explained that I should have been aware of Mercury and its ability to affect travel, sales, and communication. I had to have the entire system torn out of my car and replaced with a new system, but I waited until Mercury was direct again.  

Now I pay attention to Mercury, and when it goes retrograde, I don't buy things like cars, computers, radios, or telephones, and I don't send queries or submissions to agents or publishers. Yes, I'm a little superstitious, but why mess with astrology, which has been around for centuries? 

For those of you who know I recently bought my first new car in twenty-four years, I began my search while Mercury was retrograde, but I told the first salesperson that I would not buy a car until after a specific date. He tried his best to get me to explain my reason so he could attempt to overcome my objection, but I refused to reveal my secret. I waited until Mercury was direct, and by then I had test-driven almost a dozen other cars and dealt with half a dozen other salespeople. By the time Mercury went direct, I knew without a doubt which car I wanted. I bought it from the original salesperson, and I have been most pleased with my decision.
Check the Internet or just ask Siri on an iPhone if Mercury is retrograde, and if it is, find out when it goes direct. Wait at least a day or two after that, before submitting any proposals or manuscripts to publishers or agents--that is if you have become a believer like me. Meanwhile, hole up and enjoy the creative time when Mercury is retrograde.